Wordsworth’s White Wife – Review 4

Sometimes the Twain do Meet – A review from India, by Atulya Sinha

It is said that the past is a different country – it follows that one’s younger self must be a different person.
It takes much courage to confront that younger self and much talent to describe such encounters.
Rosie McAndrew, the septuagenarian scholar who has written this book, lacks neither courage nor talent.

This book opens with the author’s 22-year old avatar, Rosemary Christine Dexter – earnest, hardworking and optimistic; but also inexperienced, vulnerable and somewhat naïve. While she is getting trained at BBC’s Training Centre in London, prior to working overseas in Guyana, her tutor directs her to meet a group of trainees from Guyana. “My attention was caught immediately by this attractive, self-assured, bearded black man,” she says after catching a glimpse of Wordsworth ‘Mac’ McAndrew, “I liked the jaunty but determined way he moved, full of contained energy. He was quite short – about my height – he was slim and compact, his eyes were alert, and he looked intriguing and charismatic.” Continue reading

Darcus Howe & Tariq Ali re.Partition, Channel 4, 1987

August 20th, 1987

Tariq Ali & Darcus Howe,
Executive producers of ‘Partition’,
Channel Four TV

I am writing to congratulate you on the excellence of ‘Partition’; it was beautifully scripted, filmed, acted and directed – one of the most sensitively handled productions I have seen for a long time.

The composition of individual shots, whole scenes, and the relationship between them was extremely imaginative and thought-provoking; the pacing was courageously unhurried, and the cumulative image of the cruelty of partition was powerfully but unostentatiously portrayed.  Brilliant!

So please pass on my congratulations to the director and everyone else concerned with the production; when is your next one, and when can this be repeated?

Thank you again, and very best wishes for future productions.


Georgetown, Guyana – a lost city?

A letter published in the Stabroek News, Guyana,
on November 3rd, 2013, headed:

Forty years on, most of the splendour of the Garden City has gone

31st October, 2013
Dear Editor,

I have just been on my first visit to Guyana in 40 years. From 1968 to 1969, I was a VSO working for Broadcasts to Schools in Georgetown, and I came back in January 1970 to marry Wordsworth McAndrew and teach at St Joseph’s High School.  Our daughter Shiri was born in 1972; I completed my Diploma in Education at UG the following summer, and only returned to England after our divorce in September 1973.

Since then, all through my exile, I have held fond memories of the beautiful Garden City that was Georgetown. I loved the elegant white wooden houses with their jalousies and delicate fretwork, in gardens overflowing with bougainvillea, hibiscus and oleander.  I loved the wide avenues lined with sweeping flamboyant trees and canals sparkling in the sun.  I loved the bridges over trenches to little wooden cottages on stilts, in yards brimming with palm trees and callaloo.  Continue reading

Wordsworth McAndrew – August 2008

– written for the memorial services held for him in New York and London

I first met Mac at the BBC, in London, where he was just finishing a TV course with some guys from Guyana Broadcasting Service.  I was doing an extra week’s training in radio there before I went out to Guyana, to do Voluntary Service Overseas at Broadcasts to Schools with Celeste Dolphin.

As it happened, my group shared a lounge with the Guyanese crew, so I was introduced to them all. I was immediately drawn to Mac, and as I had to find someone to interview for a radio project, I rashly asked him if I could interview him about Guyanese folklore and culture.  Of course, I could hardly have chosen a subject closer to his heart!  He told me all about Queh queh and Cumfa;  I found him fascinating, and as we saw a lot of each other for the rest of that week, I invited him down to stay with my family before he went back home.  When I arrived in Guyana, some weeks later, I didn’t have to be part of the usual VSO crowd, as I had an open door into his world. Continue reading

Geoff Beaghen and Hastings Arts – August 2011

I first met Geoff in 1987.  He was then in the throes of gathering together a group of people to form Hastings Arts – his vision of an umbrella organisation to include Music, Poetry, Film and Drama in addition to the Visual Arts.  Mutual friends had suggested that I should be the Theatre representative, and that’s how I came to know him.

His long-term dream was to establish an Arts Centre in Hastings that would not only act as an inspiration for local people and provide a venue for exhibitions and performances for local artists, but also help to regenerate the town itself.  Continue reading

My father, Harold Dexter, 1893-1989

My brother John asked me to write something about our father’s life,
and read it at his funeral.
Some of the incidents described are based on the memoirs I asked him to write,
and some are memories of my own.

My father was born in 1893, the second of six children; his older brother was Arthur, and after him came Charlie, Ernie, Ethel and Elsie.  At first they lived in Kennington, but later moved to Mitcham, where most of his early memories were centred.  I used to love hearing over and over again the stories he told about his childhood: like the time he was sent to buy an egg for a penny farthing, and having carried it carefully home and rested it gently on the sloping window sill while he knocked at the door, was bewildered to find that it had rolled off and smashed…  Or the time he was sent to purchase “a pennorth of pot ‘erbs”, not having the remotest idea what they were…  Or the time his mother sent him to buy a quill, and he decided the ostrich feathers were much prettier, so he bought the nicest one there, and then had to take it back to the shop, waiting outside for half an hour until the shop was empty, to pluck up the courage to go in…  Or the time his father sent him out, at the age of seven, to buy a mattressContinue reading

The Man in the Van…

This sequence of 3 letters was prompted by my first encounter
with tradesmen’s fees in my first basement flat.  

      The faded tissue-paper carbon copies of the correspondence
were at the back of a very old file. 

           … And the hourly rate mentioned has its own tale to tell…

Dear Mr Xxxxxx,
      I have received your account dated October 31st, 1979, relating to work carried out at the above premises on October 16th, 1979, and feel sure that there must be some simple explanation for the extraordinarily high figure it contains.
      The work took less than two hours to do, and even allowing for labour costs as high as £5.00 per hour, it would be hard to imagine how a basic figure as excessive as £20.00 could be arrived at.  Perhaps there was a typing error and the figure was intended to be £10.00 – still considerable, but rather more reasonable as a price.
      I look forward to having clarification from you about this, and thank you in anticipation.
Yours faithfully,  …………
Continue reading

Racist remark on Radio 4?

March 20th, 1982

To the Director General of the BBC

I am writing to protest at the racist content of a remark made by one of the presenters of the Today programme on Wednesday March 17th.

The remark in question followed an item on the medicinal use of leeches

The presenter claimed to have been told that anyone who had seen the film “The African Queen” – which he had not done, as he had not been to the cinema for the last 35 years – “would have seen a number of large, black, slug-like objects;  you might also have seen some leeches…” pause for laughter from his colleague.

I am aware that degrading innuendo of this kind is considered fair currency among the ignorant and the insensitive;  I am aware that in objecting to it I am opening myself to charges of obsessiveness;  but until that moment I had shared a naïve belief in the underlying Good Nature of the BBC as an institution, and was physically and emotionally shaken to hear such a sinister slur being given its sanction.  Continue reading

Two Poems for my Daughter

These poems were written for my daughter, Shiri,
on the death of her father, Wordsworth McAndrew, in 2008

Lines to a poet, wondering…

Among the many,
The many, many
Delicious definitions of love
That you so passionately researched
And recorded
For the entertainment of generations yet to come,

Did you ever discover any,
Did you register any
Of a father’s
For his child?

To Wordsworth – a lasting legacy

The daughter that you never chose to love,
The one, one day, you didn’t dare to meet,
Whose life you chose to leave a thing apart,
Whose joys and pain you didn’t care to share,

Can you imagine how she chose to mark
Your absence from the absence that she knew?
I do not think you can. Were you afraid
Of her disdain, of her dismissing you?

She went alone and bought a weeping tree
And planted it, because ‘that’s what they do’.

And I, who had not wept for you before,
Was overawed at the magnificence
Of such forgiving love as this for you.
And filled my eyes.  I’ve never loved her more.

The first poem refers a list of nearly 40 Stages of Love
which Wordsworth compiled from the East Indian tradition in Guyana,

beginning with the relatively mild Typee, through Chiranghi,
Chiranghi-bang-bang, Chiranghi-look-boop,
& Totilotipo,
to the dizzy heights of  Zeggeh-heh-saha

and Ezapootilingoof (“…typee till yo bajoodie!”)

Its title is a reference to one of his own poems, called “Lines to a Cartman, pushing.”

Five Poems for a long ago love

There are some desert plants
That live death sentences
Beneath the sands.
Unseen, unknown,
In seeming sleep.
Until the rain…

And then they quicken,
Push their frail stems into light,
Entrust their fragile frenzied forms
Enflamed with unexplored fluidity
Into the full glare of the sun
To open up their latent growth:
Their leaves, their flowers, their fruit, their seeds,
And know their own luxuriance.

Sometimes the rain does nothing more
Than skim the surface of the sands,
Blown on by winds to deeper distances,
Arousing life in passing merely,
So that the tenuous shoots
With just a glimpse of what life might have been
Are withered up before they know their flower.

I am a desert seed.
You are the rain.
Seasons I’ve spent escaping joy;
But now I know what moisture is
I need to feel your gentleness
Again, again, again, again, again… Continue reading